A Revised Maritime Strategy: Worth the Wait?

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A Revised Maritime Strategy: Worth the Wait?
By: Mark Lawrence

Admiral Jonathan Greenert, chief of naval operations, confirmed that the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard will soon release a new maritime strategy. Observers argue the strategy is long overdue, considering it is meant to update guidance first issued in 2007 and to align naval forces to missions enumerated in the 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance.

The document’s delay may be a blessing, however, given the starkly different security and fiscal circumstances now facing our maritime forces. The past year witnessed rapid changes in the international environment, from Europe to the Middle East. Perhaps even more important, the sea services have had two years to reflect on their experience under sequestration in 2013 and contemplate the likely return of Budget Control Act–level spending caps in 2016. To the extent that a new strategy reflects these lessons, it will provide more relevant guidance today than it would have even one year ago.

A new maritime strategy’s value to the Navy in particular will be measured by whether it articulates—for Defense Department leadership, Congress, the American public, and international partners—how the fleet will preserve its solvency in the face of longer-term structural challenges that have only been exacerbated by the present budget environment. The 2007 strategy proffered a Navy eager to meet increasing demand—prepared to expand its global security activities into such realms as humanitarian assistance and disaster response, while maintaining the capacity to aggregate power in two main regions on short order. The new strategy must reflect genuine resource constraints, while acknowledging the Navy’s concerns over readiness and future combat credibility. It should distill plans to balance a fleet of sufficient size for today’s needs with major ex penditures to preserve our armed forces’ asymmetric advantage in power projection.

If it is to succeed, the strategy cannot sit idle as a paean to technology “offsets” or a thinly veiled plea for reallocating service budget shares. Just how the Navy uses the document to inculcate a “cross-domain” warfighting perspective (leveraging cyber and electromagnetic maneuver) into its procurement and operational design, and to mitigate capacity shortfalls through deepened cooperation with key partners, will provide early tests of its eventual consequence.

CSIS’s Maritime Security Dialogue, presented in partnership with the U.S. Naval Institute, will provide a venue during 2015 in which to explore such issues associated with the trajectory of the U.S. sea services.

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